Why Cyber Attacks Soar During the Holidays

cybersecurity

Holiday cyber attacks are here. This time of year is supposed to be for resting, reconnecting, and rejoicing. However, cybercriminals see it as the perfect time to take advantage of your business. Which leads to massive growth in cyberattacks during the holiday season. 

To avoid a disaster, it’s important for your business to know what threats you face and assess your cybersecurity preparedness.  

Don’t Let Cyber Attacks and Scams Ruin Your Holiday 

Cyber criminals love the holiday season just as much as most of us do. However, they don’t spend time with friends and family, decorate a Christmas tree, or sit by a fireplace with a warm drink in hand like us. Instead, they take every opportunity to go online and hunt.  

They prey on the weak, vulnerable, and unsuspecting. Which pays off because many companies and organizations are less responsive.  

“Cyber criminals may view holidays and weekends – especially holiday weekends – as attractive timeframes in which to target potential victims, including small and large businesses,” stated CISA in one of its alerts.  

So, why do the holidays increase cyber attacks in the US?  

IT Professionals Are Not Working  

Organizations that rely on an in-house IT team usually have fewer people available to respond to threats during holidays. This leaves them more vulnerable and unable to act in a timely manner. It may be too late to avoid damages by the time an IT professional gets to the office.  

Employees Are Distracted 

Employees working for companies that experience a spike in demand during the holiday season may be so busy they forget to implement cybersecurity best practices.  

Organizations Have More to Lose 

According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales represent 20 percent of annual sales across most industries. As a result, any disruption happening at this time of the year can be very costly for the targeted organization and rewarding for the attacker.  

Employees Working Remotely Are Easier Targets 

More people are on the move during the holiday season. Unsecured access to the internet via public WiFi puts you at an increased risk. Additionally, remote workers are also susceptible because they don’t have access to the protective measures your staff at the office possess. 

Top Cyber Threats to Watch for During the Holiday Season 

Organizations face the same cyber threats (or slight variations) every holiday season. Knowing what the threats are and how they work is an essential prerequisite for the implementation of effective countermeasures.  

Social Engineering Attacks  

There are many different types of social engineering attacks, and they all skyrocket around holidays. Phishing, for example, has been revealed to increase by more than 150 percent above average.  

It’s easy to find similar alarming statistics for smishing, vishing, business email compromise (BEC), tailgating, and other scams.  

Holiday social engineering attacks often take advantage of the fact that employees expect to receive holiday email messages from coworkers, clients, and business partners. This makes them more likely to open malicious messages and any attachments.  

Ransomware  

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that denies access to data or a device until a ransom is paid. This cyber threat has become the dominant form of malware. A Darktrace report reveals that ransomware attacks increase globally during the holiday season. 

These attacks tend to go together with social engineering. However, they can also be delivered as fileless malware by abusing vulnerabilities present in legitimate tools or directing targets to infected websites.  

It’s important to note that most ransomware incidents (76%) are launched outside of working hours – either on the weekend or before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m. on a weekday. Ensure that after-hours coverage is available to respond within a set time, in case of an emergency. 

DDoS Attacks  

According to Microsoft’s 2022 Digital Defense Report, the tech giant mitigated a record number of global distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks last holiday season. These attacks attempt to overwhelm the target with bogus internet traffic coming from a huge number of devices at once.  

Unfortunately, they can create long-lasting outages. Causing companies, especially e-commerce businesses, a major loss of revenue.  

In the past, there have been cases of shady business owners using DDoS-as-a-Service tools to take out their competitors so that customers would have fewer options to choose from.  

Holiday Scams 

The last category of cyber threats to watch out for during the holiday season is the broadest. It includes various holiday scams, such as:  

  • Fake charities 
  • Gift card scams 
  • Fake gift exchanges 
  • Package delivery scams 
  • Among others 

These scams share the same goal of extracting money from unsuspecting victims. As such, they rarely disrupt the operations of organizations, but they may cause a lot of distress to their employees.  

Cybersecurity Advice from Aligned Technology Solutions 

We hate seeing the holiday season ruined by cyberattacks. That’s why we recommend organizations take these five steps to better protect your business: 

  1. Conduct cybersecurity awareness training sessions for employees. Educate them about the threats described in this article so they can better avoid them.  
  1. Update your software to reduce the number of vulnerabilities cyber criminals can exploit to breach your defenses. Don’t forget to update employees’ personal devices if they are allowed to connect to your network.  
  1. Review password best practices and enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) to prevent a single leaked or stolen password being used to compromise all your systems.  
  1. Monitor network activity 24/7 for early signs of cyber attacks. Smaller organizations with limited or no IT staff should partner with a cybersecurity-savvy provider of managed IT services to ensure around-the-clock network protection. 
  1. Have a contingency plan ready to recover from a cyber attack. Every second of downtime during the holiday season is expensive. You can quickly resume operations and keep the cost of the attack as low as possible with a well-thought-out plan.  

Stay Vigilant  

Cyber criminals won’t hesitate to ruin the holiday season for any organization that isn’t sufficiently protected against these threats.  

If you’ve already taken steps to strengthen your cybersecurity posture, continue to review your defenses and remain vigilant. Because the holiday season is the perfect time for cybercriminals to strike. 

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